Column: Tribe in Brazil taps into power of Internet

"Deep in the Brazilian Amazon, the indigenous Surui tribe made its first contact with the modern world barely four decades ago; electricity came to their tribal lands just last year.

Yet the tattooed tribespeople, some still living in thatched roof huts, have caught on fast to the power of the Internet: They're using it to call attention to the decline of their precious rain forest and, along with it, their unique culture.

Working with the Amazon Conservation Team, a U.S.-based environmental group, the tribe of about 1,200 in the western state of Rondonia, Brazil, is using Google Earth, the Internet giant's digital mapping technology, to mark their territory, which is besieged by illegal logging and other forces of development.

In 2006, the Surui began mapping their region -- sites of harvestable plants and trees, wildlife breeding areas and bow- and-arrow skirmishes they've had with tribal enemies.

The tribal chief, 33-year-old Almir Naramayoga Surui -- the first Surui to attend university -- traveled in May 2007 to Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, to solicit help from the company.

Wearing the traditional Surui headdress of brilliant parrot feathers, Almir told his techie audience through an interpreter: ``We don't want to use Google technology just to denounce what's happening but to discuss solutions for everybody who lives on this planet.''"

Get the Story:
Mike Di Paola: Tattooed, Feathered Amazonians Use Internet to Save Rain Forest (Bloomberg News 9/2)

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